• Monday, March 04, 2024
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From law to health: Adepeju Jaiyeoba’s entrepreneurship journey

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It takes courage to move from law to health. The difference between the two is clear: One is law and the other is health. This may appear like a repetition, but only lawyers and health practitioners know the real difference between the two.

Adepeju Jaiyeoba studied Law at Obafemi Awolowo University. But she has decided to tread on the health sector to make a difference.

In 2011, she had an unforgettable experience that later became an inspiration. She lost a close friend at child birth. Her friend had a good job, financial power and exposure, yet died at child birth. This made Jaiyeola wonder what women in rural communities without money, education and good jobs could be going through.

“When you see numbers, those are just numbers,” she told Start-Up Digest at the Hague, the Netherlands, at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in early June.

“It is when you knew one person who died at child birth that you would know that no one was immune to dying at child birth. My friend was educated, working class, had information and the financial power to seek good healthcare, but she still died at child birth. It made me wonder what could be happening at rural communities where people would not have access to all these sterile facilities,” she said.

She thereafter went to rural communities and saw things herself. The difference, however, is that she decided to do something about that.

In 2014, she founded Mothers Delivery Kit to reduce maternal mortality in rural communities. Maternal mortality in Nigeria was 814/10,000 live births in 2014 so she needed to do something to reduce this phenomenon.

“We connect women in rural areas to life-saving supplies they need at child birth. We work with women in these communities because we believe the location of a woman at child birth or her economic status in life should not be a factor in determining whether she lives or dies at child birth. The kit is an assembly of all the things which a woman needs at child birth. It is aimed at fighting the issue of accessibility and affordability of sterile equipment during child birth,” she explained.

She has different manufacturing partners in Nigeria who supply her with the content of the delivery kits. In some cases, she and her team design particular sterile equipment and then ask manufacturers to produce in large quantity.

The kits are, however, not completely free.  They are sold in different rural communities at the cost of $5.

“Women within the communities also sell the kits to traditional birth attendants, birthing homes, primary healthcare centres and other areas. From the sales of these kits, these women are also able to get incomes, support their families, start new businesses or pursue new dreams or even send their own children to school,” she said.

She does not just give out kits. She tries to establish contact or relationship with the ultimate consumer of the goods. And one way in which she does that  is by training birth attendants.

“We have different trainings categories to different birth attendants. Our focus is on two lowest cadres of healthcare: Community extension workers and  traditional birth attendants.

  “We try to identify who holds the power to what is used during the child birth. The answer is the traditional birth attendant. So, we train birth attendants to improve birth outcomes for mothers and babies,” she disclosed.

“We use influential people, and we go through associations that ensure we get the maximum level of support we need,” she added.

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Since 2014 when the mother of two boys started till date, she has sold over 500,000 kits across 346 communities in Nigeria.

“We have returning customers and those who order in large quantity or demand customisation of packs,” she explained.

So far, the growth has been rapid. In 2014, she started in two communities and had only 30 kits. This has moved to 346 communities now and over 500,000 kits. “Right now, we are looking into new product developments,” she said.

She has been developing herself since then. Through the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she has studied Business and Entrepreneurship at University of Texas, Houston. Thereafter, she interned at the Maternal and Child Health section of the United Nations Foundation.

She has also been privileged to receive the support of the United States African Development Foundation in kicking off Mother’s Delivery Kits.

“Our services are not in all the states.  Because our services are usually accompanied with training, you will see us in some local governments in Katsina, Zamfara, Bauchi, Adamawa and many states. You will find us in Epe, Ibeju-Lekki, and Ikorodu in Lagos,” she said.
He said her kits were unbelievably cheaper than what anyone could get in the open market.

Apart from the United States African Development Foundation, her other investor is Unilever London. She said they were investors that would go beyond giving anyone just funds.

“They also connect you with platforms that can offer technical support and assistance; mentoring so that you continue in the work you do and improve the communities you sell to,” she explained.

She is also planning for expansion to all the states in the country.

She said Nigeria’s health sector was improving and getting better.

“We can do far better in terms of policies to ensure that development and quality trickle down,” the entrepreneur said.

Like other entrepreneurs, she certainly has challenges.

“The supply chain line is a nightmare. This is because we do not have infrastructural support. Imagine goods leaving for Lagos and you can’t even say authoritatively that they will arrive in Kaduna in three days’. Anything can happen to stop it, including a tanker bursting into flames and burning down all your goods. Supply chain lines are the death of production lines in Nigeria. By the time they arrive in Kaduna, they are already more expensive. That is why you find that drugs that are N30 in Lagos cost much more in Kaduna or Bauchi.”

ODINAKA ANUDU